Because of you, Illinois is moving forward. Even as some states move backward in their reopening plans, all four of Illinois’ health regions have now steadily improved health metrics to allow the state to move to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan by the end of this week, on June 26th. This is great news for all of us.
I am filled with optimism and gratitude because we have risen to this challenge together. Like you, my spirits have been lifted by the sights of our favorite restaurants opening for outdoor dining in reimagined ways that demonstrate the resilience of our community. Many of us have gotten our first haircut since March 20. We are not out of the woods, of course. Our continued success will depend upon a shared commitment to following public health guidelines for public gatherings and activities. Please review the information on Restore Illinois Phase 4 below to learn more, and remember to wear your masks and maintain social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
As we transition to summer, our communities and our state are beginning the recovery process at a time when we must also reckon with the systemic inequalities laid bare not only by this pandemic but also by public outrage sparked by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Many of you have reached out to share your outrage at these injustices – I hear you, and I am with you. We have a moral obligation to rebuild Illinois through an equity lens.
Now is the time to listen and learn how to be an ally in the fight against racial inequality. I released a statement with the House Democratic Women’s Caucus that you can read on my Facebook page @GongGershowitz along with links to online events that I have joined to discuss race and related issues with the Asian American Caucus and leaders in the Illinois Black Legislative Caucus. I also joined Senator Laura Fine and Representative Robyn Gabel for an end of session recap. In case you missed it, you can view our video on my website.
As you would expect, the majority of my time in the last few months has been and continues to be dedicated to helping families, individuals, community-based organizations and small businesses understand and access services to cope with the dual health and economic impacts of COVID-19. On Wednesday, I joined Governor Pritzker and my colleagues in the Black and Latino caucuses to announce a $900 million support package utilizing federal CARES Act funds and Rebuild Illinois capital funds appropriated by the General Assembly during our Special Session to lift up small businesses, working families and communities hardest hit by COVID-19. Please read below for a summary of programs to help individuals and families that also includes links to applications for new small business grants available through DCEO starting now.
Usually summer allows me to see and talk with many of you as I attend the many events typically planned for summer holidays and festivals. While many of these may not be possible this year, please know that I miss our face-to-face conversations and look forward to resuming them as soon as we can safely do so.
Despite necessary modifications to public events due to the ongoing pandemic, there are opportunities to see each other in the coming weeks.
- I will be at both the Evanston Juneteenth Car Parade June 27th and the Glenview Reverse Parade on July 4th. Shout out a hello if you’re there too!
- We are convening several citizen Advisory Councils on topics that are important to our district, from the environment, to mental health to racial justice. Please read more about these below and consider applying.
Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz
MOVING AHEAD TO PHASE 4
Governor Pritzker announced that the state will move to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan on Friday, June 26th. Phase 4 allows key leisure, recreation and business sectors to safely reopen with industry-specific guidelines to ensure business and activities are conducted according to the latest public health recommendations. Phase 4 also allows for expanded gathering sizes, increasing the limit from 10 in Phase 3, to 50 people or fewer. This expanded gathering limit extends to key activities like meetings, events, and funerals.
An overview of safety guidelines for permitted businesses and activities to resume with capacity limits is available here. The state also developed a business toolkit with signage, posters and other resources to prepare businesses and employers to implement new and updated safety guidelines for Phase 4. The state’s move to Phase 4 of the plan allows the safe reopening or expansion of several key business segments such as health and fitness, movies and theater, museums and zoos, day camps, youth and recreational sports, as well as indoor dining at restaurants.
With children now enjoying their summer break, we have heard from many parents concerned about plans for schools to reopen this fall. With the state moving to Phase 4, we anticipate that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will be releasing updated guidance for schools soon. Local school districts will then have the ability to adapt their fall plans accordingly. Please stay tuned for future communications from your children’s schools.
As we all look ahead to Friday, it is important that we remain vigilant in public spaces by following public health guidance – maintain 6’ social distance, wear face coverings, and wash hands and surfaces regularly. Let’s stay safe and stay healthy and keep Illinois on track.
INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN CITIZEN ADVISORY COUNCILS
Are you passionate and knowledgeable about a particular issue that affects our district? Do you want to share your insights with others and Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz? If so, consider joining an informal advisory council to discuss what’s happening in our communities and Springfield. These small groups will meet two to four times a year to help Jennifer craft and pass important legislation (virtually and in-person when we can safely do so). To join, you should live or work in the district and be willing to share your relevant experiences and insights with others. We are looking for participants of all ages and ranges of experience interested in the following:
- Environmental Protection
- Health Care
- Mental Health
- Racial Justice
- Senior Issues
- Human Services – Developmental Disabilities
To apply, please fill out this form by July 10th.
EXPANDED COVID-19 TESTING NOW AVAILABLE
Testing is critical to prevent the additional spread of COVID-19. There are now 11 community-based testing sites, including 3 near our district, where anyone can get tested regardless of symptoms. Testing is free and available without an appointment, doctor referral or insurance. Click here to see the full list of testing sites.
NEW STATE GRANT PROGRAMS TO AID BUSINESS RECOVERY
Among our highest priorities during our special session in May was the appropriation of federal CARES Act funds to support working families and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Last week, I joined the Governor to announce a package of state grant programs to support communities and businesses impacted by the pandemic and recent civil unrest.
Representatives Gong-Gershowitz and Mah joined Governor Pritzker
for the announcement of the Business Interruption Grants
APPLICATIONS OPEN: New Illinois Economic Assistance Programs
Several new programs to alleviate economic distress in our communities and rebuild businesses hardest hit by COVID-19 are now accepting applications.
Business Interruption Grants (BIG) are available to help businesses that experienced a limited ability to operate due to COVID-19 related closures. In the first wave of grants, priority will be given to small businesses that have been heavily restricted or completely shut down during the pandemic such as bars and restaurants, barber shops and salons, gyms and fitness centers and are located in disproportionately impacted areas.
The Distressed Capital Program will provide $25 million to support Illinois businesses that have sustained property damage as a result of the recent protests and demonstrations on or after May 25, 2020.
You can find more information and applications for the BIG and Distressed Capital grant programs on the DCEO website here.
Emergency Assistance for Working Families and our Communities
Rental and Mortgage Assistance
To address housing instability due to the pandemic, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IDHA) will launch two separate programs to assist eligible renters and homeowners who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. These programs are expected to launch in August 2020 and provide assistance through the end of the year.
Poverty Prevention Programs
The Department of Human Services (IDHS) is providing $32.5 million to immediately mitigate poverty in Illinois. The program supports more than 73,000 people across the state by building upon contracts and services to target communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The actions will extend through the summer and target:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – One-time $500 payment to help ensure food security, totaling $11.5 million.
- Unemployed Adults – $4 million in stipends to help rebuild businesses.
- Summer Youth Providers – More than $6 million to empower and engage youth to help rebuild communities.
- Foods Banks – $2 million to expand capacity in the hardest hit areas.
- Illinois Black and Brown Farmers – $1 million to increase availability of fresh food and produce.
- Mental Health Services – $2 million to help meet demand for crisis services.
- Community-Based Organizations – $5 million in small grants for healing circles, restorative justice circles, and other healing activities.
SOON: Illinois Child Care Provider Grants
Quality child care is essential for families, businesses and the economy. The Department of Human Services (IDHS) is formulating a Child Care Restoration Grant program to support Illinois child care providers as they continue to provide care through the pandemic. This grant program is slated to launch in July 2020 with providers receiving their first installments later this summer.
Secretary of State Driver’s Facilities ReOpen
Illinois Secretary of State Cyberdrive Services: Licensing and Testing Extensions
As some state offices reopen, the Illinois Secretary of State has made the following allowances and revisions regarding licensing and testing requirements.
- From June 1 through July 31, facilities will focus on serving ONLY new drivers, customers with expired driver’s licenses/ID cards and vehicle transactions.
- Driver’s licenses, ID cards, vehicle registration, restricted driving permits, mandatory senior testing, and monitoring device driving permits that are currently expired or set to expire by July 31 have been extended until Oct. 1, 2020.
- Vehicle license plate stickers should be renewed online if possible at www.cyberdriveillinois.com to avoid crowds at state facilities.
- The deadline to acquire a REAL ID license as mandated by the Department of Homeland Security to allow airline travel in the US is extended one year, to October 1, 2021 from October 2020.
Hours of operation and services may vary by SOS facility. To find the SOS facility nearest you, click here.
District Office: We’re here to help
My staff and I are always available to answer questions and assist you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 847-486-8810. We are working on plans to reopen our Glenview office with Senator Fine and Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton and will provide updates on when and how to schedule in-person meetings as more details on the next phase of the Restore Illinois plan are available.
Also follow me on Facebook to view photos and videos of recent activities.